There's a new kid on the block and the edglings are a twitter over whether there's room for another player in the presence application market. Pownce, the latest brain child from Digg founder, Kevin Rose, is off to a whirlwind start, with many asking whether or not it is already the "new" Twitter and Jaiku Killer.
While Twitter and Jaiku are the current leaders, we're really still too early to predict winners and losers in a market that is far too young and uncultivated. After all, the masses have yet to embrace the new world of micro blogging (aka nano blogging), or general blogging for that matter. And, we can't leave out Tumblr, which is a really more of a mini blog then a presence application, but either way, it falls into this category. So, there's much work to do when it comes to educating people on the value, potential, and capabilities of the current players as well as how it benefits them and how they communicate within their social networks.
Pownce is a new service that like Twitter and Jaiku, allows you to communicate status with friends and also stay connected with those you choose to follow. In fact, it shares more in common with Jaiku and Tumblr than it does with Twitter. For example, like Jaiku and Tumblr, each message in Pownce is open for comments, which can spark threads related to specific topics. The slick Pownce user interface and the ability to select templates for each profile is very reminiscent of Tumblr. The main think I enjoy about Jaiku and Pownce is the ability to have conversations within the community. While Twitter seems to be more of a status broadcast, with direct messaging capability, Jaiku and Pownce bring the conversation to all friends or specific groups, opening up the post to threaded conversations.
Each application, also, already offers a Facebook plugin, so that people within the FB network can read your latest posts, while giving users the ability to broadcast from within the network.
But that's where the similarities end and Pownce starts to step into its own spotlight. Lead programmer for Pownce, Leah Culver, also integrated peer-to-peer file sharing functionality, providing the ability to send files to friends much in the same way YouSendIt and Dropload bypass the need for FTP transfers. This is a very important feature and will prove more valuable over time for personal and professional use. Pownce also fuses evite-ish functionality into the mix, giving Powncers the ability to invite friends to events and track their responses in one place.
Its most interesting feature is the ability to create various groups of friends to customize how and where you share information. Powncers can broadcast messages to their entire list of friends or to specific groups, creating a more dynamic foundation for personalized communication. And, you can start to see the business, service and marketing aspects of this capability as well.
Pownce is primarily a Web app, but also offers a downloadable version for Mac or PC, using Adobe's new Air (formerly Apollo), which extends Web services to the desktop.
With these integrated features, and a little imagination, one can see the potential for a holistic community that cater to the fundamental needs of people, conversations, sharing media and content, and extending social networks into the real world with event support.
Culver also mentioned that she designed the application with scalability in mind. It's currently controlling growth by giving users a select amount of invites, which are tied to back end performance capabilities. Although there are still hiccups.
An interesting note about Pownce is that it is free, but also offers a $20 per year subscription option which removes ads and allows sharing of files up to 100MB.
But is Pownce a threat to Jaiku or Twitter? Is it a wolf in sheep's clothing prepping to devour the competition? The answer is no.
While it is cool and unique, the market is too big for anyone to foolishly assume that one app will rule all. There are just too many possibilities for each of them to succeed as personal and business communications tools.
First off, Twitter and Jaiku are also mobile applications. You can send and receive updates easily from your mobile phone, the desktop, and through the Web.
Twitter, founded by Evan Williams of Odeo and Blogger fame, is simple and it's beautiful that way. All it asks is, "What are you doing?" Its community is well established, loyal, and incredibly active. People thrive on reading and sharing information through the Web, mobile text, IM, etc. and do so at feverish paces. Messages (tweets) range from greetings, updates, interesting tidbits, as well as links, world and industry news, promotions and corporate communications. It's not just a personal tool. Many businesses are participating in Twitter to provide updates to customers as well as answer their questions and hear their feedback.
Twitter's main fault however, is its scalability. It servers are continuously stumbling causing frustration and angst among many users. The team only seems to be in a perpetual state of catch up as the community quickly continues to grow.
Twitter's API also gives the community the ability to create applications in and around Twitter that extend its functionality, adoption, and its cool factor. Some examples include, Twittervision, TwitDir, TwitterGram, among many, many others. A full directory of applications is here.
Jaiku on the other hand, is a more sophisticated conversation platform. It is a presence aggregator, or a presence hub if you will, that collects feeds from various social services you use, including Twitter, blogs, del.icio.us, YouTube, flickr, etc. Jaiku merges your various online personae through one social, integrated personal stream.
With Jaiku, readers can comment on individual posts to continue threaded conversations, which is better suited to those seeking more meaningful engagements.
Jaiku recently introduced channel, which gives users the ability to create and joins channels dedicated to specific conversations and topics. For example, Supernova 2007 created a conference channel so that attendees and participants could communicate thoughts, questions, updates, pictures, links, etc., through one common stream. This is a not only a killer feature controlling personal groups, but also an ideal tool for businesses and organizations looking to engage in dedicated conversations.
While there are similarities and differences among the current presence applications on the market, the truth is that they're all built differently and serve different purposes. As the category is embrace by more people, the adoption will define which apps will succeed and in which segments they thrive. They're supported by communities and communities are driven by people with like-minded interests and contacts. Truthfully, they can all co-exist. People will define how and where they participate, usually driven by where their peers decide to congregate.
This isn't the last discussion we'll have on the subject though. Expect to see new presence applications launch soon and in the future. I also expect a series of vertical applications launching to serve specific markets. For example, Greg Narain is introducing Lil'Grams, which allows parents to share anything about their baby with friends and family who sign up for the alerts. The possibilities are almost unlimited and can serve dedicated communities, much in the same way social networks cater to different demographics such as Dogster, Catster, Hamsterster. Vertical stream apps could also become important business, city/state, local, and hobby-oriented communication tools - almost like portable forums.
With Pownce on the scene many more to come, the question is often asked, where should you participate? Depending on who you are and what you do, the answer is go where the people that matter to you are participating. And if you're a service or business professional trying to tap into these communities, participate in those that would welcome your participation.
For more on the subject:
Jeremiah tracks all Pownce reviews.
Robert Scoble interviews Jyri and Petteri of Jaiku.
Scobleizer on Twitter v Pownce.
My previous post on Twitter v Jaiku
UPDATE: TechCrunch reports that Pownce invites are on sale at ebay.
UPDATE 2: If you'd like an invite to Pownce, leave a comment or send an email.
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